Winter Beer Fest: Winners & Top Picks

3-4-2018 Winter Beer Fest.

This is the text I received: “Guess breakfast is off”.  This text came from one of our most avid beer aficionados, Scott Campbell.  Scott is our Wine Steward at the Breton Village D&W Fresh Market. This text was prompted by the postponement of the 2018 Winter Beer Festival at Fifth Third Ballpark due to the continued flooding of the Grand River. There went my weekend!
In the past, Scott and I, along with a couple other SpartanNash associates, would meet for breakfast at Brewery Vivant’s only annual breakfast the Saturday of Winter Beer Festival.  In case you’ve never been, the menu for the annual breakfast at Brewery Vivant changes every year and yet it is somehow always the best breakfast ever.  I’ve asked both Kate Avery and Jason Spaulding of Brewery Vivant if they have considered doing breakfast every Saturday, but they both responded with, “We need some time off.”

But of course, if you are a beer lover, breakfast is just the icing on this day. The cake is the Winter Beer Festival itself. This event will have over 140 breweries for 2018, which are pouring over 1,000 different recipes of beer.  This is staggering.  What an opportunity to find new breweries and new beer items for you to try, and that will potentially hit our shelves some day!

Looking at the list of the breweries, I counted 43 that I’ve not heard of in the past.  Of course that may have been because I walked by some of their booths in past, but just do not remember the names. That’s because when I am at the festival, I have a mission. I am looking for breweries that are bottling or canning beer and have proximity to one or more of our stores – not to say that I don’t try some just for curiosity’s sake! I also just like looking for local. Even if it is for only a few stores, I feel that it is important and I make it a priority.

I promised to update this post once I had actually been to the postponed event.

Thankfully, as was well to proceed as planned this past weekend, so here is my update:


  • I started out at Short's Brewing with their Gin Barrel Aged Melt Your Brain.  For those that love Gin and Tonics, this is your beer.  It is a great summer tasting beer and highly recommended. 
  • Jaden James Blackberry Cider from Kentwood, Michigan was next.  A great expression of the fruit is at the front of this beautiful purple cider.  It finishes medium dry with plenty of sweetness in the middle palate.
  • Tapistry Brewing from Bridgman, Michigan had a Gin Barrel Aged Mr. Orange.  This was an outstanding beer with a hint of orange and notes of pine.
  • Livery Brewing from Benton Harbor, Michigan had a Wheat wine sour named Umae Umami.  The combination of plums in a wheat wine sour made this an amazing beer.  I was thinking of Chinese Food while drinking this great sour.
  • New Holland came out to the event with what they named Hot Chocolate Porter.  The chocolate was fantastic, and the hot was breath-taking.  The server hesitated before pouring this unique beer and with a raised eyebrow asked, "you sure you want this? It has ghost pepper in it."  I said I did and am happy.  What a pairing with corn tortilla tacos with chorizos and mole.
  • Trail Point from Allendale, Michigan had a Naughty Nana.  This great beer was another barrel-aged porter with peanut butter.  I always was skeptical about beer with peanut butter, but no longer.
  • White Flame out of Hudsonville, Michigan, had a beer named Glass Monkey whose name begged me to drink it.  A wonderful Belgian Trippel with scary ABV of 9.2%. This one is a real sipper.
  • I am a huge fan of beets so the Harsen's Island Meet Your Beet was a must.  This beer made my day.  Rich beet flavor from whole beets made this vibrant red beer delicious.  The 65 IBUs made this beer serious.
  • Speciation had a very long line.  The wait was worth it.  I tasted a dark sour named Pleiotrophy.  It is a sour made with Mad Cap coffee.  These two flavors married unexpectedly well.
  • Watermark Brewing out of St. Joseph, Michigan had a beer named Slippery Bob's Tropical IPA.  This unfiltered IPA was juicy and full of pineapple flavor.  This IPA could almost be described as sweet.
  • Oddside from Grand Haven, Michigan offered a Cap de Night.   This was a barrel aged Imperial with chocolate, cinnamon, and vanilla.  As the name suggests, it is a great nightcap beer.

Greg Vanoverloop Beer Wine Spirits Category Manager
  • Started in the Grocery business bagging at D&W in 1975.  Worked at D&W for 30 years in various departments.
  • Worked at SpartanNash for 11 years.  Currently the Category Manager for Wine/Beer/Spirits for SpartanNash East.
  • Have been a category manager since 1990 and a category manager of beer  since 1997.  CM of wine and spirits since 2007.
  • Have travelled extensively which provided the opportunity to taste many foods and beverages from Hong Kong to Caribbean, from California to Maine.
  • Love to cook, grill, and bake, snow ski, sail, and read books.    Best baked item – a bourbon pecan pie with rum crust.  Best grilled item – salmon with blueberry onion wine sauce and goat cheese.  Best cooked item – Squash Apple soup with bourbon.  Best ski slope – Go Devil at Keystone.  Best book – Wonder.
  • 1 wife, 3 children, 7.3 grandchildren.